From #SHRM13 – Quit Judging, Start Loving


“To love a man enough to help him, you have to forfeit the warm, self-righteous glow that comes from judging.” – Ron Hall


When there are 15,000 paid attendees at a conference, as there were at SHRM13, there are going to be a lot of times when the swarm is all moving in basically the same direction – up or down, right or left. You hear a lot of people say, “mooooo,” because they feel like driven cattle.


You also hear and read a lot of tips from people about so-called courtesies they can extend to help keep the crowd moving along at a brisk pace. One of these tips –  I heard it repeatedly at last year’s conference in Atlanta – was to walk up and down the escalators, much like people walk on moving walkways in an airport. This gets people up and down faster, and helps prevent the lines that form in front of escalators, according to the tipsters.


At last years conference, though, I was about 8 weeks away from a bilateral total knee replacement, and there was NO WAY I could walk up and down those escalators.  I could barely get up and down out of a chair. So I endured some of the heavy sighs and under-the-breath grumbling I heard, even though it hurt to hear them. I was physically unable to do anything else. But I wondered, and wonder still, if people would have been so quick to judge if they had known my circumstances. Would they have been more compassionate, more loving and forgiving?


This year I could almost run up and down those escalators, thanks to my knee surgery. But I had a different problem that reared its ugly head – several times – during SHRM13.


The worst time was on Monday night, when a gentleman approached me and said, “Hello, Joan!” I stared at him with a panicked look on my face because I could not remember his name, even though I have interviewed him before and have looked at his picture online several times. I could see the look of surprise, and then disgust, on his face before he finally told me his name. It was clear that he was unhappy. But I have a reason why I forget people’s names, or, sometimes call people by the wrong name. Even people I know well. And it’s not snobbery, or smugness, or inattention, or lack of caring, although people clearly judge me so.


I forget or mistake names because almost 15 years ago I had a stroke. It was a mild stroke, and I was fortunate not to lose any mobility or have any permanent speech impairment, although if you stick a pin in the left side of my face I won’t feel it. But that stroke left me with almost no capacity to remember people’s names. I once called my daughter by my dog’s name.


My daughter knows my problem and laughed it off, but my professional connection at SHRM13 gave me a withering look of negative judgment. Would he have been more compassionate if he knew of the impaired part of my brain damaged by stroke?


But nothing was stopping him from reacting compassionately. Nothing stopped him from saying, “My name is _____” with a smile instead of a look of hurtful disgust. Just like nothing was stopping the people on the escalator from smiling and standing still, even if the crowds weren’t moving as fast as they would like. Their patience would have been appreciated by the person in front of them whose escalator ride was a momentary respite from extraordinary pain.


We all know that some behaviors are simply rude or boorish, deserving of negative judgment. But I bet if you analyze it, a lot of your judgments about others are just a way to get a “warm, self-righteous glow” for yourself, without any thought of others.


Maybe we can all try to find that glow in love, understanding, and compassion for individual circumstances instead of judging.



4 thoughts on “From #SHRM13 – Quit Judging, Start Loving”

  1. Great food for thought Joan. I had a similar thought about Gabby Giffords. Prior to her tragic injuries, I dare say quite a few of those in the crowd at SHRM13 didn’t know or care about her. In fact, for some, I suspect her political beliefs were not in line with theirs. Would their reception of her at SHRM13 have been the same had she not been so gravely injured? Would their cheers and tears have been as bi-partisan had she walked onstage free of her crippling injuries? Would her message to “be passionate, be courageous, be your best!” have been as thunderously applauded had she not been struggling openly with getting full speech back?

    Truth be told, Gabby was terribly injured. And therefore, her presence at SHRM13 with her loving husband was incredibly moving. The approximately two dozen words she spoke were far more inspiring than they might have otherwise been had she appeared at a SHRM conference prior to January 8, 2011.

    But here is my question, my point: Does it really need to take a dramatic incident, a heart-breaking injury or a life-threatening diagnosis for us to care about each other? You should not need to qualify a brief lapse in memory by disclosing personal information (unless of course you want to – that is your right!) for anyone to smile and re-introduce themselves to you without judgement.

    Compassion should be handed out every day, to everyone, regardless of their circumstances. We shouldn’t wait for strokes, injuries, illnesses or tragedies to compel us to care for one another. When you speak with compassion first, more often than not, judgement is silenced. That is how it should be.

    Much love to you, and everyone who reads this!


  2. Joan,

    I am with you on this one 100%. We all should be keenly aware that there are circumstances that everyone has, whether we know the specifics or not. It’s not our job to judge (or take pity because who really wants that?) If we all took a moment to think about the fact that most of the time, people don’t deliberately do something to tick others off (i.e. standing on the escalator or not recalling a name) than we would all be a bit more understanding and better problem solvers.

    Unfortunately, we don’t always take that extra moment to be compassionate… but we should. I bet given the opportunity in a situation like not recalling a name, the person who forgot would be open to explain why – if they were treated with understanding and compassion instead of disgust. The impact of a stroke is not rare or something uncommon that most people are unfamiliar with. I bet if he had known after, he would have felt very, very foolish.

    All the best,

  3. @Joel – Wow! What a beautiful comment! Thank you for taking the time to write. I have written before that we shouldn’t wait for a tragedy to be kind to one another (notably after Sandy Hook at, but I loved your statement that you should speak with compassion first to silence the judgment. You’re wonderful!

  4. @David – thanks so much for your thoughtful comment. I agree that most of us don’t want to take the extra time to consider the possibility that people have circumstances that should “excuse” them. For example, I have many people negatively judge the fact that I drive a “gas guzzling” SUV. I drive one because I am actively involved in animal rescue and foster, and it is the safest way to transport a lot of dog crates. I’m not deliberately trying to consume excessive fossil fuel. 😉

    Again, I really appreciate the time you took to write.

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